Good Reasons for Bad Feelings Book Summary - Good Reasons for Bad Feelings Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Good Reasons for Bad Feelings summary

Randolph M. Nesse

Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry

4.2 (122 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

"Good Reasons for Bad Feelings" by Randolph M. Nesse is a book that explores the evolutionary origins of mental health disorders, arguing that they have served useful purposes throughout history. It provides a fascinating perspective on why our brains can cause us to feel anxious or depressed.

Table of Contents

    Good Reasons for Bad Feelings
    Summary of 10 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 10

    Natural selection and our modern environments have given us great advantages and great vulnerabilities.

    Through countless generations, the process of natural selection has brought us an array of advantages, such as opposable thumbs and sensitive vocal cords. When paired with our evolved brains, these traits allow us to create handcrafted wonders and to communicate our most profound thoughts.

    But despite the many triumphs of human evolution, we are yet to develop immunity to many of the physical and mental diseases that plague us. While we’ve made certain ailments, like infected wounds and polio, less life-threatening than they once were, we still fall victim to cancers and chronic depression.

    This is, in part, because our environments change with us and consistently introduce new dangers, like processed foods filled with dangerous amounts of sugar, salt and saturated fats. Once upon a time, these ingredients were rare, so our bodies had a healthy craving for them. But due to their relatively sudden abundance, our bodies are ill-equipped to deal with them. And so we find ourselves facing high levels of obesity and heart disease, as well as eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

    At any rate, there’s little chance that natural selection will help us overcome such issues, since health and longevity are not what natural selection is concerned with. Ultimately, natural selection is all about emphasizing the traits that lead to better chances of reproduction. If you’ve ever felt the desperate desire to have sex with someone of the opposite gender, regardless of any problems this may create, then you’ve likely experienced this process in action.

    Natural selection also has limits and trade-offs that practically guarantee continued imperfections. 

    For example, humans have a relatively strong sense of sight, but we certainly don’t have the kind of telescopic vision that an eagle has. Theoretically, we could develop new eyes that address our imperfections, but this would take thousands of generations, and the process would result in our vision getting worse before it got better.

    Any evolutionary improvement in eyesight or brain power would come at a cost. If we were to gain more telescopic vision, it would mean that we’d lose the peripheral and color vision we currently enjoy. Likewise, if we were to develop bigger, more powerful brains, this would require larger heads, which would increase the risk of death during childbirth.

    Of course, there are certain traits that we’d like to lose, such as feelings of stress and anxiety. But this would also come at a cost. As we’ll see in the next blink, these bad feelings help us to sense danger and stay alive.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Good Reasons for Bad Feelings?

    Key ideas in Good Reasons for Bad Feelings

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Good Reasons for Bad Feelings about?

    Good Reasons for Bad Feelings (2018) bridges the gap between evolutionary biology and psychiatry by answering some pressing questions about why we feel the way we do. By focusing on our evolutionary development, we can better understand where many of our most instinctual feelings, moods and emotions come from, and how we can better treat our disorders when they arise.

    Best quote from Good Reasons for Bad Feelings

    If only emotions always benefitted us! Alas, they were shaped to benefit our genes.

    —Randolph M. Nesse
    example alt text

    Who should read Good Reasons for Bad Feelings?

    • Anyone affected by mental disorders
    • People who want to better understand how the mind works
    • Students of psychiatry and medicine

    About the Author

    Randolph M. Nesse, MD co-founded the field of evolutionary medicine when he co-authored the book Why We Get Sick in 1994. He is also the founding director of the Center for Evolution and Medicine at the University of Arizona, a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the president of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health.

    Categories with Good Reasons for Bad Feelings

    Book summaries like Good Reasons for Bad Feelings

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    28 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial